Machinist and Truck Drivers

Online readers respond to "College Immaterial," by Todd Spivak, May 15.

Slap: Thank you so much for publishing this. HISD's motto, "Creating a College-Bound Culture," is a slap in the face to the majority of our students, who have no college aspirations. We have radically distorted the place of public education in society; our job should be to help students realize their dreams, not dictate what those dreams ought to be. I think some of us in our profession (I work in HISD myself) have attempted to right past wrongs by going overboard. Many students lacked opportunities in the old days and were shifted to vocational classes without much consideration for their wishes or natural talents. We're doing the same thing today, under the fallacy that every young person should go to college. Working in the trades is not a sign of failure. For quite a lot of people, including many in my own family, these jobs provide good salaries and personal fulfillment. HISD must address this issue if it really wants to deal with the dropout rate.

Comment by Anse

The machinist: My youngest, who is now 25 years old, went to a tech school after getting his G.E.D. He went through San Jacinto College to learn to be a machinist. The program was suspended the year after he graduated. We still need machinists and tool and die makers for manufacturing. These are highly technical jobs. All products start with manufacturing. No wonder those jobs are going to China. There is no one left here in the U.S. with the skills.

Comment by Sue

Society bias: I went to college (undergrad and grad school) because I loved school and loved learning. My older brother is a college dropout because, as smart as he was, the traditional school setting never held his interest. Now, all these years later, he lives hand-to-mouth while I have a relatively comfortable existence.

People with college degrees don't fare better statistically because that piece of paper is some sort of Willy Wonka magic ticket; we tend to fare better because there's a huge bias in society toward those who went to a "real" college. Just because I had the patience to sit in a classroom for years on end, I am somehow better than my hairdresser, my mechanic, a contractor, EMT or pharmacy tech?

Every day that goes by, we trust those with vocational careers to handle our vehicles, our children, our planes, our homes, our medicines. Yet, they're still regarded as second-class and/or blue-collar. It's an embarrassment.

I wish these high schools had been around when my brother was going to school, and I hope administrators, legislators and the like will really start to understand that it takes all types to make our society safe and viable. As a society, we will never truly advance unless we are all educated, but what matters most isn't a college degree but critical thinking, analytic skills and the desire to learn.

And really, when is the last time anyone saw those things in your "typical" college freshman?

Comment by B

Demanding: I think the article could have done without the comments from Stephen Klineberg. I don't think he understands the demands of a vocational career. Constant learning is critical, and these are the jobs that are often on the front line of changing technology. As for being obsolete, I'd like to see him tell his plumber that. I think there would be a lot of laughter.

Comment by Dawn

Big-Rig Tears

Organize: I've been truckin' for 33 years now, with 29 of those as a company driver ["Truck U," by Paul Knight, May 22]. I feel their pain. However, from personal knowledge I can tell you, many times my union tried to help these individuals by organizing them into our union, to organize their own union or at least to get them to honor a picket line. But their go-it-alone, stubborn attitude always got in the way. They would also be the first ones to exploit any truckers' strike or slow-down, always willing to work cheaper and for longer hours while violating hours of service rules and safety regulations, putting many lives in danger. Sound familiar?

Now with sky-high fuel prices affecting everybody and our borders being crossed more and more by international truckers, these guys are crying big-rig tears. Sorry, but it's difficult for this ol' gear-jammer to sympathize. I'd also bet a Coke that every one of those guys mentioned in your article voted for the current oil administration, save the Canadian, if they voted at all. Meanwhile, Lee Raymond, et al., are laughing all the way to the bank. In the immortal words of Mother Jones, "Don't Mourn — Organize." Ten-four?

Tim Pagel

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